When a player makes his debut at the age of 15, he is regarded as a prodigy. But when he breaks a 27 year old record set by Diego Maradona, there is an expectation of excellence. Other young prospects like Freddy Adu and Nicolas Millan may have faded into anonymous realms since their breakthroughs, but the man they call ‘Kun’ has gradually developed into one of the most wanted forwards in Europe.
The link with Maradona does not end there however. The legendary former captain was Aguero’s manager at the World Cup last summer, although the 22-year-olds impact on the tournament was restricted to just two substitute appearances. However he did assist Gonzalo Higuain with a goal against South Korea. Opportunities for Argentina have been tough with competition from the likes of Carlos Tevez, Diego Milito and Higuain, but Aguero will be a key element alongside his best friend Lionel Messi in the future if he can replicate his form at youth level for La Albiceleste. He has been part of the 2005 and 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup winning teams, and won the top goalscorer award in Canada 2007, and was also an Olympic gold medallist in Beijing in 2008.
At domestic level, the player who cost €23m from Independiente in 2006 was an important figure in a team which won Atletico Madrid’s first major trophy since 1996. A Europa League triumph over Fulham saw the Argentine win his first major trophy for the Spanish side, and he was a key man in the final. He assisted both Diego Forlan’s goals to ensure Los Rojiblancos overcame the English side.
He has recently signed a contract extension with Atleti, and despite the reported interest from Chelsea and Real Madrid, is happy to stay at the Vicente Calderon until 2014, a huge boost for the club, who are hoping their prized asset becomes as symbolic as Fernando Torres.
Great with the ball at his feet, an extra yard of pace to leave defenders in his tracks, and also remarkable strength for such a small player, Aguero has all the assets to mature into a world class player, and it seems Atletico will be the platform for him to demonstrate his ability.
It has been a monumental rise to stardom for Gerard Pique in the past three seasons, one which has seen him develop from a promising back-up at Manchester United to being regarded as one of the best central defenders in world football since his return to Barcelona.
His partnership with club captain Carles Puyol has been important for providing defensive stability in Barcelona’s recent success, and their partnership has been replicated at international level, as seen in Spain’s World Cup victory in South Africa last July. Pique’s ability as a ball playing defender and an immaculate reader of the game has seen him combine well with the more tenacious defender in Puyol. The defender’s form has been so impressive that the likes of Rafael Marquez, Dmytro Chygrynskiy and Henrique have left the club in search of first team football.
The past year has seen Pique cement himself in great sides. He played every minute in the World Cup, and was a key figure in a defensive line which only conceded two goals as the Spaniards secured their first World Championship. He was part of the historic Barcelona side which won six trophies in 2009, and played 32 league games in La Liga to help beat rivals Real Madrid to the title with a record points tally of 99. Despite a goal in the Champions League semi-final against Inter Milan, it was not enough and the defending champions were eliminated to the would be Kings of Europe, however his displays did not go unnoticed, and in January was named in the UEFA Team of the Year along with five of his club teammates.
At only 24, Pique has the best years of his career ahead of him and is already being touted as the future captain at the Camp Nou. Potential for greatness beckons for the Catalan, who is part of a Barca team which is regarded as one of the best ever. Pique will hope to ensure his name will be remembered amongst fans for generations, and can emulate the success of his idols: Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and Fernando Hierro.
The scene was a wet Port Elizabeth, and a free-kick offered a chance of hope, and personal glory. It was the last kick of the game, and would take Uruguay into extra-time in the World Cup third place play-off if the ball ruptured into the net. A man, who was renowned for being the butt of the jokes when he played in England, hit the ball and winced in agony as it struck the crossbar, and thus saw him miss out on the Golden Boot.
The World Cup used to be a platform which offered opportunities for fans across the globe to see new players, and those opportunities only arise every so often. In the modern day this is not the case with global broadcasting of every league and the magical world of the internet, but in South Africa it presented a chance where Diego Forlan helped to mould a new reputation for himself.
After the arrival of Quique Sanchez Flores as the coach, 2010 proved to be a fantastic year for the Atletico Madrid striker. Despite finishing runner-up in the Copa del Rey after a 2-0 defeat to Sevilla, Forlan was inspirational in their Europa League campaign, giving his old Manchester United fans pleasure by scoring twice in the semi-final against Liverpool. His rampage continued at the courtesy of another English side in Fulham, and scored the two goals to defeat Roy Hodgson’s men in Hamburg. It was Atleti’s first major silverware since the double winning side of Radomir Antic in 1996.
The 2010/11 campaign has not been as enjoyable for the man from Montevideo, who even went on a 12 game streak without scoring. Speculation of his future may have been a distraction, although Forlan himself has not helped the cause stipulating he would be open to a move to a bigger team, and was reportedly subject to bids from Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur in January.
The past year has been one to remember, and Forlan, playing in the trequartista role, has helped bring a smile back to the Uruguayan fans faces, helping the two times World Cup winners put their name back on the map.
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